Brescia: San Faustino in Riposo

San Faustino in Riposo.

According to tradition, Faustinus and Jovita were two brothers from Brescia who were martyred during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrianus (117-138). However, the ‘Acts’ describing their lives were only written much later and are exceptionally unreliable. Apparently this did not prevent the two brothers from becoming patron saints of Brescia. The church of Santi Faustino e Giovita in Brescia is dedicated to them. Furthermore, Brescia has had a church of San Faustino ad Sanguinem since at least the fourth century.[1] It stood on the spot where the brothers were said to have been beheaded and buried. Tradition dictates that, at an unspecified moment in the eighth or ninth century, their remains were taken from the latter church to the former. A chapel was subsequently built on the spot where the procession carrying the relics paused for a short while (riposo = a pause). In the twelfth century, this chapel was replaced with a minuscule church, that of San Faustino in Riposo.

By far the most interesting part of the church is its exterior. Since the little church is hemmed in between other buildings, it is a bit of a search for a spot from which this exterior can be seen. The church entrance is under the Torre Bruciata (‘burned gate’) in the Via dei Musei, but there you can only see a door. Walk east from here and then immediately swing north. On the square is a restaurant with a terrace. To the left of the terrace, you can go into a little alley and from there you can see the San Faustino in Riposo. The church actually looks more like a tower. The exterior is cylindrical and has a conical roof with a small campanile. The edifice cannot exactly be called beautiful, but it is rather intriguing.

Interior of the church.

The little church has a simple interior. All medieval elements have disappeared as a result of drastic renovations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. On the left wall is a painting of Saint Rita of Cascia (1381-1457). She is not out of place here, for the church is also sometimes called the Santa Rita. The altarpiece dates from 1743 and was made by Domenico Romani, a painter who is completely unknown. It features a Madonna and Child with Saints Faustinus and Jovita, and can hardly be called a masterpiece. This little church once had an altarpiece by the much more famous Vincenzo Foppa (ca. 1427-1515). His Pala della Mercanzia can now be found in the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo, an excellent arts museum in Brescia. Faustinus and Jovita again feature prominently on the panel, and one can find an image of Foppa’s work here.



[1] Nowadays the church of Sant’Angela Merici, dedicated to Saint Angela Merici (1474-1540), foundress of the religious order of the Ursulines.

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